Investigating officers recall Koirala caseThe former DIG would not have been connected to his wife’s murder but for one error he made.
Retired police officer Rajendra Shrestha still remembers what remained of Gita Dhakal, the victim wife of Ranjan Koirala.
"There were no body parts. Only one hand with a wristwatch remained ," he said.
He saw the body at the morgue of Tribhuvan University Teaching hospital on 22 January 2012, 10 days after 'the body' had been recovered from Metrang of Tistung Village Development Committee, Makwanpur district. "We could not even make out that it was a woman's body," Shrestha, then a Superintendent of Police at the Kathmandu Metropolitan Police Range, who was leading the investigation told the Post.
There had been a lot of pressure from higher ups for an early resolution to the case as a high-ranking government official had been allegedly involved, Shrestha recalls.
The accused Koirala was serving as deputy inspector general of police of the Armed Police Force. Two days before Shrestha visited the morgue Dhakal's parents had filed a complaint that their daughter had been kidnapped since she had been missing.
“The case was a very sensitive one and the whole society had been traumatised when it heard of it, “ said the then chief of the crime division of the district police office at Hanuman Dhoka who requested anonymity. “This was a gruesome case of gender based violence.”
In court documents, a woman named Tara Regmi had said that Koirala had been living with her because he was unhappy with his wife but she was not in the country when the body was found.
Investigations later showed that Koirala had killed his wife in Kathmandu and taken her body to Makwanpur district. Koirala had earlier served in Nepal Police and had studied criminology.
“But he made a big error,” said the crime division chief. A day after his in-laws filed a first information report (FIR) of their daughter being kidnapped, he returned to the crime scene in Makwanpur district.
When the villagers saw him they got suspicious of him because he had been seen earlier in the area and started asking him questions. Koirala replied that he was a DIG and tried to get away but the villagers handed him to the police but the police released him since he was a top-ranking police official.
The next day , on 22 January, his in-laws, filed a murder case against him after they had been called to identify if what remained of the body was of their daughter. The wristwatch belonged to Gita Dhakal.
“If he had not visited the site we would not have been able to link the body with him because there was no connection between the remains of the body found in Makwanpur and a missing person report in Kathmandu,” said the crime division chief.
In fact when his in-laws had registered an FIR for kidnapping, Superintendent of Police Shrestha had tried to mediate between them and Koirala on the same day, unaware that Gita Dhakal had already been murdered.
“When I realised that he could have murdered his wife I could not believe it, “ said Shrestha, who was a batchmate of his and they had been at basic police training together. “Koirala’s involvement was unimaginable for the whole of the police force.”
Once the body was discovered, the case was more or less closed.
Before the DNA result came back, Koirala surrendered. It later turned out that he had surrendered following the suggestion of Regmi hoping for a lighter sentence.
But the Kathmandu District Court sentenced him to life imprisonment which then amounted to 20 years and confiscation of his property. On appeal Patan Appellate Court upheld this verdict.
On June 29, 2020, eight and a half years after the incident, the Supreme Court controversially commuted his sentence by 11 years saying that he had to look after his motherless children and he was released on Thursday, having completed his sentence. The court again controversially returned his property.
Asked what they felt about the Supreme Court’s decision, both said they had done their jobs and did not want to comment.
When he came out of prison on Thursday Tara Regmi was waiting to welcome him.